Leaving Neverland, a new documentary that debuted Friday at the Sundance Film Festival in Park City, Utah, contains a series of graphic and often bizarre allegations about alleged sexual abuse against young boys committee by the late pop music superstar Michael Jackson, including the claim by one victim, now 40 years old, that Jackson "married" him when he was a pre-teen, even presenting him with an expensive diamond-encrusted "wedding" ring, according to a account of the film's premier screening by Variety magazine.
James Safechuck, who met Jackson at age eight after being cast in a Pepsi commercial, according to the documentary, says that Jackson began molesting him when Safechuck was 10 years old, after ingratiating himself with the boy's family and winning the trust of Safechuck's mother, Stephanie. At one point, Jackson invited the family on tour with him, and the boy and Jackson shared a bed in a Paris hotel room, Daily Beast film critic Kevin Fallon described.
"Safechuck says that Jackson introduced him to masturbation that first night, having him doing it so often that the boy's penis swelled and Jackson would have to dip it in warm water so that he could pee," Fallon wrote, describing Safechuck's allegations. Leaving Neverland was directed by Dan Reed, who also directed the 2014 documentary THE Pedophile Hunters.
Safechuck says in the film that Jackson frequently gave him lavish gifts, including expensive jewelry. He displays the aforementioned diamond-encrusted gold ring that he says Jackson gave him in a "wedding" ceremony. The self-described "King of Pop" and the pre-teen boy "crafted their vows together," Safechuck says, according to the Variety account.
According to a New York Post report, several audience members at Friday's Sundance screening left their seats during the film's explicit descriptions of Jackson's abuse of Safechuck and another boy, Wade Robson, in the 1980s.
"Michael would like it if you would bend over and spread your cheeks," Safechuck says in the film, according to the Daily Beast. "Then he would masturbate."
Robson in the film alleges that "Jackson would have him kneel on all fours on the bed and expose his anus while he masturbated, sometimes sticking his tongue in it."
"Robson and Safechuck recount incidents of masturbation, kissing, oral sex — at least once while Safechuck was sleeping — being forced to caress Jackson's nipples, bending over for him while he pleasured himself, and being coaxed into painful anal sex," Fallon described in his Daily Beast summary of Leaving Neverland.
Jackson appeared to justify the abuse, telling Robson, "You and I were brought together by God. This is how we show our love," according to the Post report.
Leaving Neverland is scheduled to air in the spring of 2019 on HBO in the United States and Channel 4 in the United Kingdom, according to the Los Angeles Times.